Remember the great "Visible Man" and "Visible Woman" anatomical model kits by Revell? After several hours or days of careful painting, gluing and assembling, you had a human figure with clear plastic skin, through which were visible the skeleton and internal organs. Best of all, you could remove the chest plate and remove those insides to study how they all fitted together. It was one of the coolest model kits ever, and an invaluable anatomical reference for the budding surgeon or the medically curious. It was also a tempting target for little hands.
Well, Uncover the Human Body, written by Luann Colombo and illustrated by a host of artists, safely satisfies the curiosity of the owners of those little hands, and also delights their parents (or in this case, uncle) with its clever construction and wealth of useful and fascinating information. Each page is made of sturdy cardboard, and the entire center of the book is cut out in the shape of a human figure. Suspended within this cutout by support rods of clear plastic are parts of the skeleton and the various organ systems (minus the reproductive system) - eight layers in all, including the front cover. It's based on the same concept as those acetate pages in an encyclopedia that show human anatomy, but in this case the body parts are sculpted in the round from plastic, affording an even more coherent view of just how all those "guts" fit together inside your body. It even includes the musculature of the left arm and leg.
The text is well-researched and clearly-written with children in mind. It can be read aloud to younger children, and those who already read well can enjoy it on their own. The fact entries have humorous titles, such as "Gimme Some Skin!" and "Of All the Nerve!" Difficult words are italicized and followed by pronunciation guides. The scientific names for body functions are paired with the more commonly-used terms with which children may already be familiar. It contains fun little experiments children can do with little or no supervision, such as the de-calcification of a chicken bone in vinegar and a recipe for fake blood.
However, this is not strictly kid stuff. I've been an armchair anatomist for decades, and yet I learned things from the text that were never quite clear to me or that simply had not been addressed in my studies. (For example, the exact purpose of the small intestine; atlas and axis vertebrae; lobes of the lungs; that when you feel thirsty, you're already a little dehydrated, etc.)
A few words of caution: the book does contain small plastic parts that could be broken or ripped out, so keep it out of reach of children under three years or who tend to break their toys. Also, the model is not intended to be removed from the book, and would not fit together properly without the support of the pages anyway. These caveats aside, Uncover the Human Body makes a great gift for children who are endlessly fascinated by the body and how it works.